Monday, November 28, 2011

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is at the top of our list of things to do in the Tucson area. Even though we were here 8 months ago we couldn't wait to come back again.

Another great thing about visiting this museum is that you can camp at Gilbert Ray Campground or Snyder Hill BLM. We spent a couple days at each but feel Gilbert Ray is definitely one of our favorite all time campgrounds; it's like camping in a desert botanical garden with near perfect sunsets almost every night.

The museum has an amazing assortment of plant and animal species. We could see animals up close in their natural surroundings, like this Coyote.

Once again there was a Harris Hawk demonstration, like on our last visit.

The Mexican Wolf has been hunted into extinction by ranchers here in the USA, but I think there are still a few in Mexico.

What a great place for a Cactus Wren to build their nest. What predator could possibly get through this defensive perimeter?

Happy Javalinas, enjoying some shade from the hot afternoon sun.

I took another photo of the convoluted Saguaro Cactus and compared it to my previous photo-no difference whatsoever. I'll have to be very patient to ever see any change; 8 months is nothing in the life of a plant than can reach 200+ years old.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Organ Pipe

Before leaving the Ajo area we wanted to visit Organ Pipe National Monument.

I didn't know that this is as far north as Organ Pipe cactus grow. They are much more plentiful further south in Mexico.

If you take a close look above this large arch you can see a tiny, fragile arch right above the big one.

There's a port of entry right in this National Park. It's a pretty small town, but the only place you can get an ice cream for miles around.

You gotta love these rickiddy old sun shades; on a hot day they're a blessing.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Back to Arizona

In the tradition of trying to stay off the interstates as much as possible we ended up in Ajo, Arizona after leaving Slab City. The great thing about Arizona is that we would know we're here even if we hadn't seen the welcome signs. The first clue are the giant billboards denouncing President Obama in one way or another; this is without a doubt a very red state. The other clues include the absolutely straight endless roads, Saguaro cacti, border patrol stations everywhere, 100 mile views and endless sunshine. Though we've never been to western Arizona it feels like home to us just the same. We expected Ajo to be just another dusty desert whistle stop but it turned out to be lushly green and beautiful. The Ajo town square is especially nice with its southwestern architecture and mature palm trees.

What a great downtown mural with wonderful Saguaro characters.

When we told our son, Greg, we were in Ajo he said it didn't look very appealing. Yes, on Google earth all you can see are the ugly copper mines and piles of tailings. There's a huge pit mine here like the one in Bisbee, but it was closed due to road construction, otherwise there would be photos here.

It's obvious now that this is a winter destination for many a snowbird. If you like a small town, southwestern atmosphere this place is perfect. For groceries there's even an outstanding IGA grocery store stocked with everything you could want, plus fresh gulf seafood.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Still at the Slabs

This morning we welcome new followers Mark & Chris and Julia. Thanks for joining our blog and we appreciate your support.

So, how does Slab City rate as a campground? It's definitely big rig friendly with plenty of huge, level campsites. You can park in view of other RVs or you can park totally alone on the fringe near a cluster or trees with a view of the mountains and the Salton Sea. You can even find sites without garbage but there is no avoiding the trash when you drive in and out or go for a walk. If you're only going to be here for a day or two try to include a Saturday night, when you can enjoy free live music under the stars at "The Range", an open air concert stage where local artists perform.

We caught this sunset right out our windshield yesterday evening.

While we're slummin' it here at the Slabs, fulltime RVer Nina, and her dog, Polly from Wheeling It is lounging in paradise. Nina visited us at our last stop in the La Quinta area; Lake Cahuilla County Park

Nina may be lounging in the spas at Desert Hot Springs but Slab City has its own bubbling hot spring too. There were no bathers when I stopped by due to the strong winds yesterday.

The VW bus lives on!

The Wooly Mastodon made out of tires is one of my favorite art exhibits here.

The bottle garden is cool too.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Slab City

All I can say is that this is like no other place I've ever been. Despite the lack of water, electricity and other services this place is home to about 150 year round residents as well as the RV snowbirds that hang out here in the winter. A short time after we arrived we saw a UPS truck and later a big yellow school bus drop off six children. There's a church, library, internet cafe and more here as well. Apparently it does function like a small city.

The community bulletin board with the Sun Works solar store in the background.

Most of the full time residents make an encampment near one of the many Palo Verde trees here. Some kind of additional shading is also added to guard against the scorching 120 degree temps. common here in the summer.

Though we hear the hum of a generator most of the time most people here employ solar panels or wind generators to keep things running. With most campers able to occupy at least a 1/4 acre for themselves it's surprisingly quiet and uncrowded here. The weather is nice too, 72F now and 60F this morning at sunrise.

There is a lot of junk here, we expected that. It's really awful in some places. There is a group,, who is trying to change this but some people just spoil things for everyone else.

We think this lady was headed into Niland for supplies. Other people bicycle or hitch hike the 3 miles into town.
3 story tall Salvation Mountain is the first thing you see coming into town. The Folk Art Society of America has declared Salvation Mountain a national treasure.

The interior of Salvation Mountain is a labyrinth of odd shaped rooms and bizarre art work.

I met the owner of this establishment who told me what all else there is to see here. I will probably post some more photos in a day or two.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What a Difference a Couple of Days Make

Just a couple days ago ago it was Redwoods, Sequoias and cool mountain air. How quickly it all changes now that we've come down into the Palm Desert area.

I suppose these wind turbines are no big deal if you drive through the Palm Springs area all the time; but they are amazing just the same.

Entering Joshua National Park from the south entrance will quickly take you to an area where Chollas' grow in abundance.

Though most critters stay hidden mid day, this Desert Wood Rat showed himself briefly beneath a Cholla .

Joshua National Park is unique unto itself, though at times it reminded us of the Utah parks and Texas Canyon, Arizona.

Where do they get these names?

This side route through the park was freshly graded so we gave in a shot.

This park is really rocky at times, especially near the campgrounds which are very very nice, though we would never fit in any of them. I think 22' is the maximum allowed.

Nolina Perry is a member of the Agave family, a new one for us.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Parks

Maybe I should have captioned this post "Lots of tree photos, yawn". Anyway, after trying to catch up on lost sleep due to our location near the freeway, and the damn trains all night and day, we decided to go for the 180 mile loop drive that was necessary to see these two parks.

We wondered whether Sequoias could be all that much different than Redwoods. If a tree measures 20' in diameter or 30 feet, it is still impressive, don't you think? We were surprised how busy the park was this late in the season, tourists everywhere, especially at these famous named trees; at least they give a sense of scale to the photo.

We had an opportunity to drive through another tree. What the heck, it didn't cost $5 this time.

Whether you can get a sense of scale or not, these trees are magnificent!

At one time it looked like the road went under this rock.

There's a place or two along the way where we could see the Sierra Nevada Mountains.